In late September I was lucky enough to be able to hear Ferran Adria speak at Google, and also get a copy of his new cookbook. Ferran is one of the most famous chefs in the world; though lesser known in the US/UK since he doesn’t speak English and doesn’t have TV shows. His restaurant (elBulli) was named the best restaurant in the world for four years straight.
What Ferran is really known for is his creativity. He pioneered “molecular gastronomy”, where chefs do absolutely crazy stuff to create new flavors and textures. But unlike other chefs, he did this not just with the food but with the entire restaurant! In order to have the time available to be creative, he shut the restaurant down for half the year. In order to have time to be creative even when they were open, they shut for lunch.
His talk was all about creativity, and was recorded below. It’s pretty slow to watch, since he’s speaking Spanish and everything is translated live. But if you’re interested at all in food, cooking and creativity, he has a thought-provoking perspective on creativity.
I sat next to a woman who practices “visual notetaking” and grabbed her notes from the talk from Flickr. (Click image to get to the original) Ferran’s talk is the bottom part of the page, under the dotted line.:
The points from her notes are clear. His definition of creativity is simple: not copying. Some forms of creativity are more simple, such as new ingredients in an omelette. Others are more complex, like re-defining what an omelette can be.
Another key perspective is that creativity depends on production. If you can’t breathe life into your idea (or at least give it a go!), then it’s debatable if you were ever creative at all.
Finally, we all got/bought copies of his newest book, “The Family Meal.” I heartily recommend it. The recipes are what the staff at elBulli restaurant would eat before restaurant service.
There are a few awesome things about this book:
- The recipes are laid out as 31 complete 3-course meals (starter, main, dessert). One month of meals, with a lot of variety amongst them.
- Each meal gives you ingredient portions for 2 people (yay! for couple portions), 6 people, 20 people, or 75 people.
- It’s a picture book; each recipe is on two pages; ~15 photos for each recipe showing what it should look like at each step of preparation
- Each three-course meal has an outline of when you need to start each major step of preparation (2 hours before, 30 minutes before, night before, etc.
- Each three-course meal also has a condensed list of ingredients, and what should be bought fresh, what you should fine in the cupboard, and what you should find in the refrigerator.
- There’s some great advice on different preparation techniques that’s invaluable for home chefs (like me) that don’t have a formal cooking education
Again, I highly recommend his book and the video above; Ferran thinks about creativity on a different level from nearly anyone else.